Greg Laurie - Who Is God?
Well, let's grab our Bibles and turn to Psalm 139. Psalm 139, and the title of this message is, "Who Is God"? So I heard the story of a little girl that grabbed a piece of paper and some crayons and she sat down to draw. Her mother asked, "Honey, what are you drawing"? She said, "I'm gonna draw a picture of God". Mom said, "Honey, nobody knows what God looks like". The little girl said, "They will when I'm done". What does God look like? What is God like? Is he a smiling God or is he a frowning God? How does he look at you and how does he look at me? Does he approve of me? Does he disapprove? Because the Bible refers to God as a Father, that's a point of entry for us to sort of try to wrap our mind around the infinite. I'm the finite trying to comprehend the infinite. I'm trying to grasp the Almighty God but yet the Bible presents him as a Father.
And it's interesting because in the Lord's Prayer, which is a template for all prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name". Now I wonder, what kind of father did you have growing up? Well, I had a lot of 'em, seven. And none of 'em really treated me as a father except one, Oscar Laurie, who adopted me, but my time with him was so short. So when I thought of the idea of a father, I really had no point of reference, but that's not true for many of you, many of you had a great dad, still have a great dad. Your dad was just a perfect representation of what God is like. He was there for you, he cared about you. He was everything a good father should be.
Others of you maybe didn't have that experience. Maybe your father left, maybe your parents divorced. Even worse, maybe you had a bad dad and he hurt you in some way and so you sort of transfer that over to God. Well, my father on earth is this way, therefore my Father in heaven must be the same way. No, you have to look at God the Father in an entirely new way. What is he like? Well, to answer that question, we have Jesus himself. Who's a better expert on God the Father than God the Son? So Jesus told us a story. We often call it the parable of the prodigal son. And if Jesus himself had not told this story, we might even think it's a little bit irreverent.
Let me explain. Jesus presents God as a father who has two sons. One of their sons goes astray, drags the family name to the gutter, consorts with hookers, drunkenness, everything you could do wrong, this kid did wrong, and one day he came to his senses and said, "I will return and go to my father and say, 'Father, I'm no longer worthy to be called your son, just give me a job, I'll do whatever you need done, 'cause I'm starving to death out here.'" And Jesus telling this story says, "While that son was a great way off returning home, the father saw him and ran toward him with compassion and threw his arms around him and hugged him and kissed him and said, 'Rejoice with me this my son who was dead is alive again.'" And then he said, "Let's have a barbecue".
So it was a celebration and a party. Why is that an irreverent presentation of God potentially? Because in the culture of the day, it was considered undignified for an older man to run. Older men did not run. Not to mention the fact that it's hard for an older man to run, right? So this father, according to Jesus, was willing to lose his dignity, so to speak, to get to his son as quickly as possible to show his love to that wayward boy. I love this picture, because it shows us what God really is like. Two thousand years ago, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate asked this question, "What is truth"? And we're still asking that question today.
Now, past generations always felt that you had to look to a source outside of yourself for absolute truth, namely God and the Bible. That's how we determined what was moral or immoral, what was right or what was wrong. But a new study from the cultural research center at Arizona Christian University shows that 58% of Americans that were surveyed no longer believe that. So almost 60% of the American public do not believe there is absolute truth anymore. That is to be determined by what the Bible teaches. Instead they say, "It's up to the individual to decide what is true and moral". So your opinion, my opinion, doesn't matter, every opinion is valid. And this is even more shocking, they found that evangelicals are almost as likely to reject absolute moral truth as to accept it. In other words, 46% of evangelicals did not believe there was absolute truth.
Houston, we have a problem, because an evangelical by definition is someone that believes what the Bible teaches. And instead now we trust our heart. "I trust my heart. I follow my gut. I let my feelings help me to decide what I should do. I think this, I feel that. I believe. I believe that for every drop of rain a flower grows. I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows". Stop pushing your dog around in a stroller and eating tofu and listen, snap out of it. Walk into this right now, listen to me. Linda, Linda, listen. We have to think biblically and therefore logically, instead of emotionally. It's time to put our thinking caps on.
God wants us to think, not just feel. Our feelings should subject themselves to what is true, not develop your worldview based on how you feel about a certain thing. Isaiah 1:18, God says, "Let us reason together says the Lord". Another way to translate that is, "Come, let us argue this out". We need to live biblically, and we can't take our cultural cues from what society is telling us right now. Romans 12 says, "Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind". As the Phillips translation puts that same verse, "Don't let this world around you squeeze you into its own mold".
Listen folks, we are living in a time where so much of our culture is out of alignment with what God says. And it seems to be moving in that direction more quickly than I can remember in my lifetime. Men identifying as women, women identifying as men ruining women's sports. But it gets worse than that. Little children being indoctrinated in our schools to mutilate their bodies in an attempt to change their sex. Some companies have tried to normalize this and even profit from it like Nike and Bud Light, didn't work out so well for them. But even in our schools, we have teachers indoctrinating our children and even have the audacity to say, "The parents should stay out of it". The parents should not stay out of it, we decide what our children will believe.
This is America. We have freedoms in this nation. They're a privilege and they're a responsibility, and we need to speak up. It's very important for us to do that because the whole transgender way of thinking is affecting so many people today, especially Gen Z. What is transgender? A literal definition. I just looked it up, how do they define that? Quote, "Someone whose gender differs from what they were assigned at birth". So when you're questioning your identity, they call this gender dysphoria, right? "Well, maybe I'm a man but I'm yet born as a woman". No, no, you're a man, you're a woman, there are no little boys that were meant to be little girls and no little girls that were meant to be little boys, God created you as you are.
You say, "Well, Greg, that's just your opinion". No, actually it isn't. 'Cause my opinion isn't any more important than your opinion. It's God's opinion, and that's all that matters. Genesis 5:2 says, "He created them male and female and blessed them and named them man when they were created". So this is God's plan regardless of how you choose to identify, it really doesn't change but let me say this, my heart goes out to impressionable young people because many times adults are pushing this on little children, and I find this outrageous. It's so outrageous and I would even say wicked for these little minds that have not fully formed yet and confusing them like this. But my heart goes out to these kids. And you know what I think what it really comes down to? 'Cause I think it's all a search for God, it's a search for meaning.
This generation is searching for God, and they're being given wrong answers. They think something will fix this. "If I have this surgery, it will be fixed. If I use this drug, it will be fixed. If I have this experience, it will be fixed". But it's not a search for something, it's a search for someone. We need to look to scripture, not to shifting culture, for absolute truth. That's how I know what right and wrong are. It's called theology, and we neglect it at our own peril. But some people will say, "I don't care about doctrine, I just love Jesus". Well, that's a sweet sentiment, but you might end up loving the wrong Jesus.
One of the warnings of the last days is false Christs would come. False truths will come that look like truth but they're not truth at all, that's why you need to be grounded biblically in what you believe. This is why Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:16, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them because if you do, you'll save yourself and your hearers". Your life and doctrine. So what you believe matters. What you think matters. Let's go to Psalm 139 and read a few verses together, Psalm 139. The Psalmist writes, "Lord, you have examined my heart, you know everything about me. You know when I sit down, you know when I stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and you follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand"!
I love that, don't you? God always has known these things. It's hard for us to understand that 'cause we learn things, then we forget things, then we relearn 'em again. But God always has known these things, he doesn't learn new things. And God never has lapses in memory. You ever lapse in memory? God doesn't forget things, that'd be scary. What if he forgot about you or me, or moved on because he found something more interesting? No, God knows all things and knows the big things because Psalm 147, verse 4 it says, "He determines the number of stars and calls each by name". Are you kidding me? Every star has a name? Well, I'd run outta names quick. But not only does he know about the stars, he knows about little details.
Matthew 10 says, Jesus speaking, "The very hairs of your head are numbered, so don't be afraid, you're more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows". He knows about every bird that falls to the ground, he knows about every hair in your head. Now, for some of you, you have a lot of hair. For me, it's like what? "Greg, you have eight, nine, I'm not sure how many you... Well, actually I am sure 'cause I'm all knowing, but it's not a lot to work with, so". He knows all things. He knows about your faithfulness to him. He knows about those sleepless nights when you pleaded with him for the salvation and protection of your children. He knows about those thankless moments where you faithfully were serving others and were rarely acknowledged. He knows about the financial sacrifices you've made for your family and even for his kingdom.
When giving, Jesus said, "Your father who sees you in secret will one day reward you openly". And God knows what's gonna happen before it happens. He lives in the eternal realm. I live in this realm. There's yesterday and there's tomorrow and there's today. That's it. For God tomorrow, that's like yesterday, it's all a continuum to him. So when God predicts the future, it's not really predict, it's stating fact. It's stating something that is. For us it seems like a prediction but it's something that he's very sure of because he lives in the eternal realm. Would you be amazed if I said, okay folks, I'm going out on a limb here.
In the 2023 Super Bowl, it's gonna be the Chiefs winning over the Eagles. Yeah, so what? Well, we all knew that because it's in our past, but God looks into the future. Therefore, when God tells us certain things are going to happen, we call it Bible prophecy, you can take it to the bank. The Bible is the one book that dares to predict the future, not once, not twice, hundreds of times with 100% accuracy because God sees the future as you and I would see the past. In fact even better 'cause I forget the past. I'll come home and tell my wife a story, "This just happened to me". And then maybe two days later, I'm retelling this story. She said, "That's not the way it happened". I said, "You weren't even there". She says, "Well, you told it differently the first time".
Oh, right, okay. So clearly I don't even remember the past all that accurately, but God remembers all things, he knows all things, he's omnipresent, omnipresent. It's just a word that means he's present everywhere. Look at Psalm 139 verse 7, "I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you're there; if I go down to the grave, you're there". Wherever you go, God will be there. Now these words can be either comforting or frightening depending on what side of the fence you're on spiritually.
If you are walking with God, it's comforting to know that wherever you go, God will be there with you. If you're not walking with God, it's frightening to know that wherever you go, God will be there. Which means you cannot escape from God. But when we put our faith in Christ, we're reassured that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. And I love the fact that that verse can be better translated, Jesus speaking, "I will never, no never, no never, leave you or forsake you". Jesus said, "Lo! I am with you, even to the end of the age". That's great to know.
God is omnipresent, God is omniscient, and God is omnipotent. Number three, omnipotent. This means that he has unlimited power that can never be depleted, drained, or exhausted. God's power can never be depleted, drained, or exhausted. Now, I'm on the eternal quest for a phone that will get me through the day and the night without having to plug it in. They always come out with new models, make the phone battery last longer, that's all I'm asking for. Plugging in, plugging in all the time, right? God doesn't have to plug in, "Oh, I'm drained". God has all power, therefore there's nothing, excuse me, too hard for the Lord according to Genesis 18:14. And this is why it's so silly when we say, "Well I've tried everything, I've exhausted all of my resources, all I can do now is gulp, pray". "What? Oh, you mean pray to the all-knowing, all powerful, ever present creator of the universe? I think he can handle your problem".
God is sovereign. We hear that word thrown around, "God is sovereign". What does that even mean? It means that God is able to do what he pleases with whomever he chooses whenever he wishes. Let me say that again. God is able to do what he pleases, with whomever he chooses whenever he wishes. So God doesn't have to check in with you or me and make sure we're okay with this, God is sovereign, but that also reminds us that God has a plan. Nothing is ever haphazard or willy-nilly, it's always part of the bigger plan for your life.
Number five, God is truth, God is truth. This comes back to the question of Pilate. What is truth? God is truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life". This means that God and God alone is the final standard of truth. Now, I know we're living in a day where you're not supposed to say that because they say, "Well, I don't know. You know, there's many ways that lead to God, and as long as you're sincere in what you believe, that will get you to heaven".
If all roads led to God, why would God the Father allow God the Son to suffer and die such a horrible death on the cross of Calvary? Answer, all roads don't lead to God. There's only one road that leads to heaven, and it's a road through Jesus Christ, who again said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". But coming back to the idea of truth, God is the final court of arbitration. You are not, nor are your feelings, or your emotions. "Well, I don't know, I see it differently. What do you do when you come to a passage in the Bible you don't agree with"? You change your opinion because scripture is true. God is true. "Well, I don't agree". Who cares? Really, who cares, I guess you care, I don't really care.
But it's God who is that source of truth 'cause we'll come up with all these wacky things like, "Well, my God is loving, but he's not wrathful". Really? Your god is you. "No, no, he's my God". You made up your own god. You can do that if you want to, but that god will not be able to save you in the final day. The only God is a true God found in scripture who describes himself clearly. There is no higher authority than God himself. He, again, is the final court of arbitration.
"Well, I don't know, I have my disagreements". Well, here's what God says in Romans 9:20, "Who are you to talk back to God? Shall that which is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me this way?'" It's just ridiculous. There has to come a point where I just accept what he says is true. You know, when you were a kid, some of you still are kids, and you had a question for your parents, "Mom, come on, let me do this". "No, you can't do it". "Come on, why"? "Because I think it's a bad idea". "Come on, why"? Finally mom gets frustrated and says, "Because I said so". "Come on". "I said so".
And then you as a kid said, "I will never say that as a parent to my children". Yes you will, you'll see, you'll see one day. And at a certain point, God just says, "Because I said so, I'm the final court of arbitration. I'm the source of right and wrong. If I say it's true, it is true, there is no higher authority because I said so". So God is omniscient, he's omnipresent, he's omnipotent, he's sovereign, he's true, God is holy. And we see this repeatedly in scripture.
Isaiah in chapter 6 says this. "I saw the Lord sitting on his throne. He was high, he was lifted up. His glory filled the temple and the angels cried, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,'" the holiness of God. Habakkuk 1:13 says, "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, you cannot tolerate wrong". See, we need to understand the holiness of God, we talk a lot about the love of God, I'm getting to that in just a moment. But I think there may have been a day in the church where the holiness of God was emphasized at the expense of the love of God. But I think in more recent times, maybe the love of God has been emphasized at the expense of the holiness of God. Does that make sense?
We say, "God loves you, God loves everything about you. God loves you no matter what you've done". Well, that's all true, but God wants to change you, there is the holiness of God too. We have to keep all these things in mind when we think about God and not make him some one dimensional creation that we come up with. 'Cause I think, "Okay, God's all-knowing, fine, God's all powerful, good, God's present everywhere, God is sovereign and he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with whoever he wants.' All right, he's holy, I got it, but God is good, God is good".
Don't miss that, 'cause if I miss that, it can be kind of a frightening view of the Lord. The word good could be understood to mean is God is the final standard of good. In other words, if you wanna know what good is, you go to scripture. God will tell you what is good, and God will tell you what is bad. And if God tells you something is bad, it's bad, and if he tells you it's good, it's good. And if he tells you not to do something, he's telling it to you for your own good because the Bible says, "No good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly". Psalm 106:1 says, "Give thanks unto the Lord for he is good".
David writes in Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good". So God determines what is good. So he's truthful, he's holy, he's good, but yes, he is loving. In fact, the Bible even says, "God is love". "God is love". God loves you so much. He knows all about you. He knows your flaws, he knows your shortcomings, he knows how far short we all fall, but he loves us. And if you're ever tempted to doubt the love of God, take a long look at the cross and think about Jesus hanging there, beaten beyond human recognition, crown of thorns pressed in on his forehead, beard ripped from his face, dying and bleeding and suffering for you. Just remember that he loves you.